Why are many diasporans not fully fulfilled despite success abroad?

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Why are many diasporans not fully fulfilled despite success abroad?

“Africa was not a primitive place at all, the people there were very advanced.”-Runoku Rashidi (African American Historian)

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Many of our parents are economic migrants that moved to the West in their 20s and 30s to create a better life for themselves and their children. Some of them managed to achieve that and more, whilst others struggled and are still struggling. Now, some gave birth to us in these foreign lands, and as the economies of the West picked up, it has gotten easier for us, their children, to achieve social mobility and attain high-income jobs in all fields from banking, law, and entertainment, etc. These 2nd-generation immigrants don’t have the same constraints that their parents had, e.g. a different accent, a more racially tense environment, less diversity in the workplace, no black tax, i.e. no need to send remittances back to Africa. Yet, after some time of success in their roles, they still feel like something is missing. Why is that? Why are we seeing so many young, intelligent African children born and raised abroad still feeling unfulfilled? I will try to explore a few reasons in this article.

1. Working in a Capitalist society

One issue is the typical millennial blues of working in a capitalist society. Millennials are often coined the ‘Microwave’ generation. We don’t have the patience to do the long grind that Baby Boomers did. We also don’t have the same constraints that they did. If we are not ‘happy’ in a role, we can simply look for another one and bounce. According to a survey by CareerBuilder, millennials and Gen Zers spend much less time in their jobs than older generations. Gen Z’s (age 6-24) average length of time spent at a job is 2 years and 3 months. For millennials (25-40) that figure is 2 years and 9 months, while Gen Xers (41-56) were at a job for an average of 5 years and 2 months, and baby boomers (57-75) spent 8 years and 3 months at a job.

The turnover is exceptionally high for millennials that work in high-stress industries such as banking and law. We don’t want to sit at our desks for 12 hours a day to prove that we are worthy employees. We don’t always want our cameras on during meetings. Yet, we know that there is a world out there, and we want to explore it. Millennials of all races and backgrounds face this problem. Africans also are wired to work in jobs that provide impact and this is causing many to leave high-flying jobs to move back home and create businesses or work on the continent. Impact within your job role brings a fulfilment that staring at numbers on a screen all day to make Western HNW individuals richer does not do.

In addition, when working in Africa, it’s not uncommon to go out with friends after or stopover at someone’s house. Africans are incredibly social and communal, so you always spend time with each other. You can’t go a day without seeing someone or someone ringing your phone. It’s very easy to isolate yourself in the West and fall into a mind-numbing routine. After spending all day at work, you go home as you only have a couple of hours to yourself, sleep, and then repeat. This will take a toll on many people, especially when they have seen a glimpse of an alternative lifestyle.

2. Not being at home

This issue does not become evident until after a few years in the workplace. However, even if you are born in London, it still doesn’t feel like home for some strange reason. There is a constant underlying reminder that this is not your country and the feeling becomes more evident as you grow older.

This may occur because of increasing racial tension again, or it may occur because of workplace conflict or resistance when trying to climb the corporate ladder. However, at some point, you will inevitably experience it. Everyone deals with this sentiment differently. Some adopt the “if you can’t beat them join them mentality” and do their utmost best to put on a mask and fit in. This can involve gatekeeping, selling out their fellow black colleagues, adopting hobbies that you’re not typically interested in or going for drinks after work more than you would want to. Still, you have to do what you have to do. Others do their job and go home as wearing masks can be draining; they don’t overextend themselves. Instead, they use their spare time to build side hustles or engage in black spaces for a release.

3. Not eating the food meant for you

This is a cheeky one that I had to add for my fellow foodies. When you have eaten the food in Africa and go back home and try to prepare your native dishes, you will know that it isn’t the same! The meat in Africa is organic and fresh, the vegetables are also fresh, and the food is just orgasmic. The same meals in the UK will cost you x 10 to prepare, which is understandable as we import it. However, there is something dull and inauthentic about it. I’m sure Caribbean people feel the same.

4. Living in a climate that is not for you

I cannot relate to this point, but I know many people can. Black people are meant to be in African weather. I know many of our grandmas came to visit and then ran back cause the cold in London was just unbearable. I also know of Nigerians that relocated to the UK or Canada and couldn’t hack the cold weather. I love cold weather, and my body loves it compared to the sun, but I know I am an anomaly. I believe many people in the UK have mild to moderate SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). When we get a bit of sun, everyone’s mood picks up, the men start walking around in vest tops, and everyone is out trying to have fun. Weather affects mood, whether we like it or not. We all know how depressing it feels when the plane lands at Heathrow airport, and you look out the window, and it’s gloomy. We also know what it’s like landing in Lagos Murtala Muhammed airport and the smell of Nigeria hits you! However, that smell is the lesser of two evils sometimes. Every week there are new stories online of Nigerians that have moved to Canada and say that it isn’t as rosy as it seems because the environment is incredibly cold and isolating, and some can take it, but some can’t.

I’m writing this article because I have seen this trend increasing in my network. I see people leaving 6 figure roles every month to move back home or do something different. I’m in WhatsApp groups and see people looking for more African-related job roles in their industries to get exposure to the motherland. Maybe one of these factors is why you’re feeling unfulfilled, or maybe there are other reasons. If you are feeling this way, you are not alone. For some of you, the solution may be to consider moving to an African country for some time. But, please, do not move without a plan. However, if you are looking for inspiration, watch Wode Maya’s channel. There are so many young, brilliant Africans from the West that moved back and are making an impact. Here is one of my favourites. Or you can listen to one of my favourite YouTubers Phrankleen also discuss the topic of misalignment of destiny here.